Professor Cathy Turner
Professor of Drama
My research principally concerns dramaturgies of place and space, including walking art, site-based performance and what performance does within and as part of place.
My current work concerns the ways that performance engages, has engaged or might engage with the richness of outdoor culture, and the often painful histories that have formed our environments, including the human and more-than-human participants. A range of projects explore these concerns in different ways, and lead me into thinking about environmental crisis as simultaneously a cultural and political one, which cannot be addressed through technological 'solutions' alone.
I am writing a monograph on 'Performing Gardens', under contract with Palgrave Macmillan, which draws on a number of these projects, not always directly.
Taking Tea (2022-3), a BA-funded project to examine cultural histories of tea production, in relation to current ecological and cultural concerns, and a green tourism. Research partners are: Jerri Daboo, Drama; Gill Juleff, Archaeology; Nadine Vanniasinkam, Cultural Studies, ICES, Colombo; Tathageta Neogi, Immersive Trails, Kolkata; Priya Tamma, Ecology, Azim Premji University, Bengaluru.
Creative Peninsula (2022). Building on previous work with Evelyn O'Malley (see below), for this AHRC-funded KE project led by Tom Trevor, we have commissioned two performances to engage with outdoor cultures in the SW Peninsula, and will be working with Tom to develop a two-day event exploring collaborative approaches to ‘place-making’ and culture-led regeneration in Devon and Cornwall. Aimed at artists, arts professionals and local authorities, it will consider how culture can help to reinvigorate and re-tell stories of place, working to overcome barriers to social inclusion, wellbeing and environmental sustainability.
Green Stages (2022): An initiative funded by the ADR fund (internal) to create a green stage space on Streatham Campus, and to work with the network O-P-E-N to host a symposium and several events around the subject of outdoor performance.
O-P-E-N (ongoing): Establishing an Exeter-based network into open air performance and environment.
Outside the Box (2021): Open Air Performance as Pandemic Response. This AHRC Covid-19 rapid response project, led by Evelyn O'Malley (PI) and with Tim Coles (Business School) and Giselle Garcia (Drama), concerned the potential for open air performance to develop appreciation and care for the environment as we attempt to 'build back better' in a safe way. We commissioned work for performance in Exeter in 2021, with publications in Frontiers (2022) and Critical Stages/Scènes critiques (forthcoming).
The Politics of Performance on the Urban Periphery in South India. (2018-19). AHRC network grant. Project researchers: Anindya Sinha (Animal Behaviour, NIAS, Bengaluru); Sharada Srinivasan (Archaeology, NIAS, Bengaluru); Jerri Daboo (Drama, Exeter); MOD Berlin (Anne Fenk). This network has resulted in an edited book, Turner, Srinivasan, Daboo and Sinha, Performance at the Urban Periphery: Insights from South India, Routledge: London and Delhi, 2022. We also commissioned four performances in Bengaluru and created an artists book with student artists in Kochi, Kerala.
I am always interested in walking performances, and am a core member of artists' collective, Wrights & Sites.
Key publications include Turner et al Performance at the Urban Periphery: Insights from South India (Routledge, 2022); Dramaturgy and Architecture: Theatre, Utopia and The Built Environment (Palgrave, 2015), shortlisted for the TAPRA David Bradby award, 2017; Dramaturgy and Performance, 2nd Edition (Palgrave, 2016), with Synne Behrndt; The Architect-Walker: A Mis-Guide (Triarchy, 2018) with Wrights & Sites - one of a series of published 'Mis-Guides' which provide provocations for disrupted walking.
I welcome PhDs on walking art, outdoor performance (historical and contemporary), site-specific performance, South Asian plantation histories and performance, performance and landscape, performance and architecture, Indian performance art, dramaturgy and performance writing.
Recent research into outdoor cultures can be found at Outdoor Cultures – Open Air Performance, Environment and Wellbeing
My sometimes less up to date research blog can be found at http://expandeddramaturgies.com/category/sometimeswalking/
Information on Wrights & Sites can be found at http://www.mis-guide.com/
Personal tutees can book a meeting via email. I'm happy to talk and can usually arrange to speak without too much delay.
See Overview for research projects.
I am series editor of Palgrave's 'New Dramaturgies' series, collaborating with Synne Behrndt, and we have collaborated in researching dramaturgy since 2005.
I have been a collaborator with Wrights & Sites since 1997 - this company comprises myself, Stephen Hodge, Simon Persighetti and Phil Smith.
I welcome PhDs on walking art, site-specific performance, open air performance, South Asian plantation histories and performance, performance and landscape, performance and architecture, Indian performance art, dramaturgy and performance writing.
Here are some of the PhD projects I have supervised recently:
Giselle Garcia: ‘Translation, Adaptation and Walking: The Fate of Shakespearean Performance in Manila's Urban Forms.’ (UoE funding, College of Humanities) (2021)
Elaine Faull: 'Theatre Alibi : An exploration of the impact on well-being and resilience on young audiences', collaborative PhD with Theatre Alibi, Exeter, (UoE funding, College of Humanities) (2020)
Tom Nicholas: 'Representations of Regional English Cities in Contemporary Theatre', College of Humanities funding. (2020)
Aparna Mahiyaria: 'Understanding Politics, Aesthetics and Performance: A Study of the Development of Street Theatre in Delhi, India' (Co-Supervisor, Prof. Shivali Tukdeo, NIAS, Bengaluru, India). (NIAS split site PhD programme, UoE funded). (2019)
Lizzie Philps: 'Parents Performing Walking: how can understandings of walking performance be enhanced through participatory live art works which include children?' (2019)
Evelyn O'Malley: 'Outdoor Shakespeare: Inheriting, reinterpreting and reimagining heritage', (AHRC funding), (2016).
Swati Arora: 'Performance in Public Spaces: Urban Intervention as Participatory Praxis' (NIAS split site PhD programme, UoE funded) (2016).
Research through practice
- A Mis-Guide to Kochi, with Smija Vijayan, Manu Mohan Pallivathukkal, Amal Pailey, Rithun Manohar, Kunjikuttan Narayanan, Bangalore, 2019. A Mis-Guide to Kochi/കൊച്ചിയ്ക്ക് ഒരു മിസ്-ഗൈഡ് by c.turner-exeter.ac - issuu
- The Architect-Walker: A Mis-Guide, Wrights & Sites with Stuart Crewes, Exeter, 2018.
- A Mis-Guide to Anywhere, Wrights & Sites with Tony Weaver, W&S, Exeter, 2006.
- An Exeter Mis-Guide, Wrights & Sites with Tony Weaver, W&S, Exeter, 2003.
- A Courtauld Mis-Guide, Wrights & Sites and Tony Weaver, W&S, Exeter 2003. Commissioned by the Courtauld Institute for their ‘Urban Networks’ exhibition, 2003-5.
Artworks, curation and performance
- 2022, curated (with Evelyn O'Malley), two open air performances in Exmouth and Penryn.
- 2021, curated (with Evelyn O'Malley, Tim Coles and Giselle Garcia) 'Outside the Box', four open air performances for Exeter.
- 2018, curated four street-based performances in Bengaluru as part of the 'Performing the Periphery' project.
- 2012 Ambulant Architectures, with Wrights & Sites, for Sideways, a festival of walking, Belgium
- 2010 Everything you need to build a town is here, with Wrights & Sites, public art commission from Situations,funded by CABE as part of Wonders of Weston (www.wondersofweston.org).
- 2008 Mis-Guided: Elsewhere in Fribourg, with Wrights & Sites and Belluard Bollwerk International Festival: artistic director, curator, consultant for 6 ‘Mis-Guide’ events taking inspiration from Wrights & Sites initial concept. Contribution to 'Mis-information Office' as a base for the project. Funded by BBI.
- 2007 Mis-Guide: Stadtverführungen in Wien, with Wrights & Sites, Tanzquartier Wien and Wienerfestwochen: artistic director, curator, consultant for 16 ‘Mis-Guide’ events taking inspiration from Wrights & Sites initial concept. Funded by TQW and the Wiener Festwochen.
- 2007 Possible Forests, with Wrights & Sites, Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World. A project involving a playful re-mapping of the forest, culminating in an exhibition and practical forum at CCANW. Funded by CCANW and Wrights & Sites.
- 2004 Blue Boy Walks, with Wrights & Sites, commissioned by Spacex Gallery, Exeter to accompany their ‘Homeland’ exhibition, Exeter City Centre and Winchester.
- 2002 And On The Thousandth Night…, improvised performance with Forced Entertainment, Kunsten Festival Des Arts, Brussels.
- 1999 The Quay Thing, with Wrights & Sites. A major A4E funded site-specific project on Exeter’s Quayside.
- 2009 Nora and I, dramaturgical consultant for devised work by Marianne Sharp, Winchester (ACE-funded)
- 2008 Writing Space, a practical research project exploring new dramaturgical practice for work with performance writers across an expanded field. Supported by AHRC research grant (£13,000).
- 2007 An Infinite Line: contributor to Dramaturgical Labs which formed preliminary research for this work by Fevered Sleep, shown as part of the Brighton Festival in 2008.
- 1995 Platform 4. Co-produced a season of new writing, working in collaboration with Theatre Alibi.
- 2013 Of Gardens, audio piece for Exeplorer, Ignite Festival, Exeter
- 2003 Three Writings/Wrightings – three performance-as-research projects, funded by Arts Council England and documented by Arts Archives. Air, with Dorinda Hulton and Peter Hulton, Exeter tEXt Festival; Camden People’s Theatre, London; Exeter University. I Am Going Outside And May Be Some Time, with Jane Munro, Exeter Phoenix. An Alliance, with Julia Barclay, Exeter University.
- 2001 Outer Space/Inner Space with Phil Smith at the Physics Department, Exeter University. Funded by NESTA, EPSRC, SWA and IOP. It toured schools in southern England.
- 2000 Eric’s Wasteland, Commissioned by Devon Arts In Schools Initiative, performed by and in three Devon schools.
- 1999 Pure Gold and Moonshine, a short play commissioned by Paines Plough, Bristol Old Vic.
- 1999 Chandler's Carousel, commissioned by The Common Players. Touring nationally.
- 1999 The Podfather, commissioned by The Common Players. Touring nationally.
- 1997 The Golden Fleece, commissioned by The Common Players. Touring nationally.
- 1997 Richard IV or The Stuff of Dreams, The Northcott Theatre, Exeter.
- 1997 The Man Who Would be King, The Northcott Theatre, Exeter.
- 1996 Northanger Abbey, The Northcott Theatre, Exeter.
- 1996 The Lone Rooster, The Common Players. Touring the West Country.
- 1996 A Savage Song, commissioned by The Common Players. Touring the West Country.
- 1993 Venus and Adonis, devised with Orchard Theatre.
- 1993 The Seven Voyages of Pericles, The Common Players, touring the West Country.
- 1993 Glorious Death, Produced and directed by Theatre Alibi, for the Platform 4 new writing season.
- 1992 The Fox's Tale, devised with Orchard Theatre. An outdoor/pub show touring North Devon.
External impact and engagement
'Outside the Box' is a project that engages local authorities, including our own City Council, and artists around the country, pooling their experiences to establish a range of possibilities and potentials for open air performance to 'build back better' in terms of our engagement with the environment. We are also working with Exeter Culture on this. Four major commissions will enhance the city's offer for leisure activities in summer 2021.
The 'Performing the Periphery' project included elements of public engagement through curation and commissioning of locally-based artists in Bengaluru and Kochi. Further impact may arise from aspects of our research into the politics of performance - both its role in shaping narratives of place, and the impacts of urbanisation on long-standing performance practices, often involving animals.
Wrights & Sites have curated work for festivals and a public art work for Weston-super-Mare. Our 'Mis-Guides' have been used in schools and colleges worldwide. Most recently, I have contributed to discussions at RAMM concerning ways of engaging children with the collections.
My project on 'Porous Dramaturgy' has brought academics and practitioner-academics together with practitioners and producers outside the academy in discussions about interactivity and community. This has facilitated workshops held in Northern Ireland by project partners Tinderbox and artist Katarina Pejovic, which culminated in a workshop demonstration and discussion for an invited audience. This workshop, was partly concerned with knowledge exchange and partly brought local concerns to bear in considering and developing the research.
Contribution to discipline
Editor of Palgrave 'New Dramaturgies' series, with Synne Behrndt.
In 2022 I will be teaching a new module on 'Theatre of Space, Form and Colour', with a focus on the Bauhaus. This is a development of previous work within the first year 'Research and Performance' module, in which we explored the work of the Bauhaus in 1920s Germany (2015). This blog entry, coming from that project, gives a good sense of the way in which my research sometimes informs my teaching, and vice versa. It includes the text of a presentation I made on this teaching work to the Prague Quadrennial in June that year, at which I was proud to show videos of the final performance, also found here.
Other modules I have led or taught on at Exeter include: Theatrical Interpretation: Practitioners; Playwriting; Dramaturgy; Performance and Interpretation; Practical Essay; Dissertation; Theatre and Ecology. I have also convened MA Modules in Performance Writing and Playwriting.
Cathy Turner is Professor of Drama at the University of Exeter. Her book, Dramaturgy and Architecture: Theatre, Utopia and the Built Environment, was published by Palgrave in 2015. She is joint author, with Synne Behrndt, of Dramaturgy and Performance (Palgrave Macmillan 2008), and joint editor, with Behrndt, of Palgrave's 'New Dramaturgies' book series. She is a core member of Wrights & Sites, a group of artists whose work is concerned with our relationship with space and place. Their most recent work is The Architect-Walker: A Mis-Guide (2018). In 2010, the company completed a major public art commission for Weston-super-Mare, curated by Situations and Field Arts and funded by CABE. She has published on dramaturgy, writing for performance, space and place and led grants investigating performance and urbanisation in South India, and dramaturgies that are 'porous', inviting participation.